by Olga Ravn
translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken
from the May 15, 2023 issue of The New Yorker
It’s exciting that more work by Olga Ravn is being translated into English. I only heard of her when New Directions published her 2018 novel The Employees, which is, like this story, translated by Martin Aitken.
New Directions is publishing Ravn’s My Work in September. I would think this story was an excerpt, but I’m not sure. See, it is translated by Martin Aitken, but Aitken is not the translator of My Work; Sophia Hersi Smith and Jennifer Russell are. So I’m excited for it all! Ravn has shown that she has quite the dark imagination!
Here is how this story starts . . .
It wasn’t my first baby, but it was my first night in the hospital at Hvidovre.
I’m talking about it now because my husband doesn’t believe me and our two other children don’t, either. None of them were there at the start.
That’s got me. This story is very short, so I’m hoping to get through it tonight. Please feel free to leave your thoughts below!
This was strange in a way I enjoyed, though I might have needed to get some insight from Ravn’s interview about the story. I think what happened, though, is this just made me more excited for The Work, which is also about motherhood.
I also enjoyed this but felt a bit puzzled. I kept thinking it was set in a Soviet bloc bureaucratic nightmare state but its presumably Denmark. It seems like the sort of malignant environment beautifully portrayed in the great Romanian film ‘The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.’ There is also a feminist reading here and some Kafka and a lot of surrealism and uncertainty.